Everyone knows about the infamous The California Gold Rush. It all started in 1848 when a farmer discovered a gold nugget. This led to hundreds of thousands of people trekking to California with high hopes of digging up their fortune.
Did you know that many people made a fortune without looking for gold during that time?
Many merchants who came to the area found lots of success because of the miners around them. For it was them who enabled the miners to stay and keep digging. Whether it was food, clothing, construction supplies, medicine, or wheelbarrows, supplies were in high demand, and if you had quality items, your business was going to thrive.
When the massive waves of hopeful migrators made the trip west, the thought of having ample supplies or even a change of clothes were not on their agenda. These people, predominantly men, only saw the “golden dream” and nothing else. Because they would do anything to be close to the gold mining scene, merchants could charge whatever they wanted for essential items. Many dealers found innovative ways to make their personal fortunes during this giant fortune hunt.
The lesser known crowd, however, the ones who thought of ways they could get paid by providing services that the miners could not pass up, are the ones that will go down in history as some of the most successful early day entrepreneurs.
Here are a few stories of some of the most successful merchants during the great rush for gold.
Think about all the gold being mined all day every day. How do you think the miners transported this gold to its next destination? Depending on how much gold they have, it would quickly become a problem for them trying to maneuver. John Studebaker came to the rescue. Before he built up a successful car company, he developed and sold wheelbarrows to the miners. This proved to be monumental because, before him, they were only crude ways to move the gold from one place to another.
Two creative bankers wanted in on the success as well. They headed west when they realized the potential in northern California. Henry Wells and William Fargo started a bank for the miners. They had their minds set on making money off of the thousands of people who were there to get rich themselves. Today, Wells & Fargo is one of the most popular banks across the United States.
Many of you might own a pair of Levi Jeans. Did you know they were first made in San Francisco during the gold rush? Levi Strauss, a German-born tailor, first started off selling canvas covers for trailers and wagons, but soon realized these miners needed something sturdy. He stitched a denim product that became the pant to wear and popularity quickly spread. Now, Levi’s is a household name all across the globe.
The Gold Rush of 1849 brought fortune to some but many miners left with less than what they brought. Hundreds of thousands of people came and many of them left with nothing to show but the group of people who were proactive and thought quick on their feet left with a business or idea that stuck around longer than they could ever imagine.